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Four to go; Sox clout to sweep.

Byline: Phil O'Neill

BOSTON - The Red Sox tied a major league record with four consecutive home runs, and rocketed to a three-game sweep of the Yankees last night on the wings of a fifth round-tripper, a three-run blast by Mike Lowell.

Lowell's second homer of the night came in the seventh off losing pitcher Scott Proctor (0-1, 4.91) and powered Boston to an eventual 7-6 victory. Manny Ramirez (single) and J.D. Drew (double) were aboard.

Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-2, 4.00), tasting the century-old Red Sox-Yankee rivalry for the first time, had some moments of brilliance and got the win, but was also charged with six runs on eight hits in seven-plus innings.

"I haven't been part of anything like that, even in Little League," Lowell said of the four-homer salvo. "Usually, four straight batters don't square up for base hits, never mind home runs.

"On the second one, I was just hoping it would get out, and it did by about eight inches. Another good feeling. I love the atmosphere here. Maybe they get carried away with the hype, but only a few players get to enjoy this rivalry. It's like the end of the world when you win."

Rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia made a great catch off pinch hitter Josh Phelps to stifle a Yankee rally in the eighth, holding the Bombers to a single run, and Jonathan Papelbon really earned his sixth save in the ninth, finishing off New York in a classic confrontation with Alex Rodriguez, getting him to bounce into a force out to end the game.

The four homers, all solo clouts off New York rookie pitcher Chase Wright, came with two down in the third inning, revved up the second largest crowd (36,905) in the post-World War II era, and vaulted Boston from a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 lead.

Ramirez started the home run binge with a blast over the Monster seats in left-center near the Volvo sign. Drew then hit one over the Red Sox bullpen. Lowell followed with a wallop over the Monster seats near the Coke bottles. Jason Varitek closed out the quartet with a shot into the Monster seats.

Wily Mo Pena tried but couldn't connect for a fifth home run, striking out.

"I was feeling better and better as the number mounted," manager Terry Francona said. "It certainly brought some life into the ballpark in a hurry."

It was only the fifth time in major league history the feat has been accomplished, and Drew had one of the homers when the Dodgers did it last on Sept. 18, 2006, against San Diego. The Twins were the last to turn the trick in the AL in 1964 against Kansas City. The Indians also hit four in a row in 1963. The Milwaukee Braves were the first to do it in 1961.

Wright became only the second pitcher in major league history to allow four consecutive homers in an inning. The other was Paul Foytack of the Angels against the Indians in 1963. One of the Cleveland homers was hit by Tito Francona, Terry Francona's father.

The Red Sox have hit four homers in an inning 10 times, last doing it July 23, 2002, against Kansas City.

Lowell said he thought Matsuzaka was effectively wild, and Francona said some of his struggle was facing such a potent lineup. "I thought at times he rushed, but hey, he got us into the eighth with a lead."

Not to be outdone in the long-ball department, Derek Jeter tied the game at 4-4 with a leadoff homer in the fifth that just made the Monster seats. It was Jeter's first round-tripper of 2007 and extended his hitting streak to 13 games.

The Yankees regained the lead at 5-4 with a single run in the sixth on a pair of hits and Melky Cabrera hitting into a 4-6-3 double play.

Francona said Matsuzaka would "probably enjoy pitching this game" before the game, but it didn't appear Dice-K was having too much fun last night. He struck out seven, walked one and hit two batters, while throwing 108 pitches.

The Yankees had a rude welcome for Matsuzaka, scoring twice in the first inning on a two-run double by Jason Giambi. Dice-K seemed to be breezing along with two outs when he walked Bobby Abreu and hit Rodriguez with a pitch, setting the table for Giambi's clout to left-center.

After a 1-2-3 second, Dice-K got himself in trouble again in the third when New York went up, 3-0. He hit Jeter with a pitch after an opening single by Johnny Damon. Matsuzaka fanned both Abreu and A-Rod on called third strikes, but Giambi came through again with a bloop RBI single to right that second baseman Pedroia got a glove on but couldn't hold.

Wright lasted only three innings, giving up four runs on five hits and three walks. The 24-year-old wasn't involved in the eventual decision, but he may be scarred for life by the thunderous barrage he gave up in just his second major league game.



CUTLINE: (1) From top left, Manny Ramirez starts the home run barrage in the third inning; (2) then J.D. Drew, top right, is congratulated by manager Terry Francona after his center field shot; (3) Mike Lowell, lower left, trots the bases after clearing the Green Monster; (4) and Jason Varitek, lower right, connects to make it four straight homers. (5) Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Yankees.

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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 23, 2007
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